What You Do and What You Think You Can’t Do

The change into a new state of being is the result of the fullness of nature unfolding inherent potential.

Yoga Sutras IV.2 (trans. Tim Miller)

“There will be no Fourth Series Teacher Training,” Tim announced (in a definitive voice) during the first days of his Third Series training. So, now that all the trainees have completed our Third Series training, I guess we’ve maxed out.

We try pretty hard here at The Confluence Countdown to keep a more universal tone to our posts–keep it newsy and light and out of the personal. That’s pretty hard as I emerge from the self-centered hothouse that is a yoga teacher training: Ostensibly, we were supposed to be learning to teach Third Series; really, we were learning to do Third Series in the broadest possible sense of doing. That is to say, what to do with it now that we know it.

“Guruji said Third Series was ‘just circus,'” Tim told us; “tricks” the early practitioners called the phenomenal Ashtanga backbending sequence. When he would remind us of this (as he did often), I would hear Steve’s voice in my head. He’d asked me as I was preparing, struggling and sore, “Do you have a good reason to want to learn this?” (or, occasionally, “Why are you doing this?”).

At the time, I was pretty sure I had a good reason. Third Series offers me unprecedented access to the kind of structural muscle strength my degrading joints need. But now the training is done, I find myself wanting a better answer.

The collection of training manuals.
The collection of training manuals.

I probably won’t be teaching my handful of yoga students Third Series any time soon. I won’t be busting out my repertoire of fabulous asanas on Facebook or putting them on display in my local Mysore room; I practice alone. There’s no teacher’s eye to motivate me, and Tim is a hundred miles away and can’t direct that hilarious grunt of disappointment at me when I cheat. So as I forge ahead with the prescription he gave me last week–First with Second one day a week, the rest of the time, Third Series–what’s my reason for doing this?

From the seat where I’m writing this, there is a damselfly lightly hovering around the window looking out on our garden. She’s a fine thing, hardly thicker than a needle, with nearly invisible wings that seem to be made of leaf veins. As she approaches me, she encounters the invisible obstacle of a pane of glass. She taps it gently: Once, twice. Even though she can’t see that barrier, it sends her off in an unintended direction, and she’s gone.

I feel now like a version of that damselfly, save this: The invisible barriers have disappeared, and I’ve been given a chance to fly through them. I learned that possibility is a powerful tool. Certainly, barriers are there. But if you gain a finer sense of your own strength, both mental and physical, what you think you can’t do will transform into a greater understanding of what you do, and why you do it.

On the last day, we studied both the chapter in the Yoga Sutras that contains the words that lead this post, as well as the chapter from the Ramayana where Hanuman, under a curse that he must forget his extraordinary abilities until he is reminded, leaps over the ocean to Lanka to find Sita. “In a sense,” Tim said, “we all possess extraordinary abilities.” Thank you, Tim Miller, for the reminder.

Posted by Bobbie

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theconfluencecountdown

Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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